Leader Lucy Delve
Nine members gathered in the Ham Wall car park for a 9.30am start on a fairly breezy morning, after a very short delay for a passing rain shower. From then on there was ever-decreasing cloud and we enjoyed viewing and listening to birds, among other wildlife, under sunshine and a brilliant blue sky. We spent some four hours in the Ham Wall reserve and about two hours on the Shapwick NNR reserve later in the afternoon.
Most members attended the meeting with the express desire to learn how to identify birds by their songs and calls, so I concentrated on that. We studied several warbler species including Willow, Garden Warbler and Blackcap. It was useful to have a Sedge Warbler singing in close proximity to a Reed Warbler so as to hear the differences in pitch, speed of delivery and variation in the complexity and variety of notes and phrases. The Sedge is a great mimic. You can stand and listen to its song for several minutes and detect other bird calls including Blue Tit, Swallow, Skylark and Yellow Wagtail. Indeed, we watched Marsh Harriers, Great White Egrets and wildfowl including a Great Crested Grebe with a stripped “humbug” youngster on its back, against an almost continuous cacophony of Garden, Willow and Reed Warblers.
It was great to see good numbers of Swifts, at last, and as the morning progressed and the temperature rose, greater numbers of Hobby appeared. Probably an estimate of around 30 at the end of the day would not be unreasonable. Bitterns boomed occasionally and some members were lucky to have a reasonable flight view of a bird low over the reeds opposite Viewing Platform 1. Two male Cuckoos seemed to be competing with each other, calling from either side of the old railway track for much of the morning, but quite distant. However, one called briefly from trees close to the path, not far from the railway bridge, and I was lucky to see the bird fly across the track not far in front of me.
Other notable birds seen were a Little Ringed Plover and a small flock of Black-Tailed Godwit on the scrape on the Shapwick reserve. Glen M located a male Garganey (summer visitor) and we had great views of this most attractive duck from the grassy track leading to the Avalon Hide, from where we saw several male Marsh Harriers at close quarters. Unfortunately, a young Tawny Owl did not feel inquisitive during our visit – there is an owl nest box on the edge of the woods and during my visit on 8th May, one of the youngsters was looking out of the hole! We saw three distant Cattle Egret from Viewing Platform 2, and around 1.45pm during our picnic back at the car park pools, one Cattle Egret flew low across towards Shapwick.
As we watched and listened to birds, we also delighted in many butterflies including Orange Tips and Peacocks and damsel and dragonflies including Azure Damsel and Hairy Hawker. Such insects were still low in numbers.
Glen totalled up 68 bird species seen and/or heard for both sites.